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walks in life

Life in the Country

I know that people have the impression that life in the country is peaceful and easy. Well, I’m here to dribble a little bit of reality on that hazy dream…

Last night, Dad and I went down to spray the cow for flies. The cow isn’t particularly happy about this procedure, so she runs about the pen and kicks up her heels in protest. Anything that gets in the way of those heels is toast. Of course, Dad has been at this a long time, so he was able to squirt her from a distance. For some reason, this cow likes to put her feet in the water tub during the day and rinse them off. The result is a muddy mess so instead of just refilling her water, we have to clean it out every night. Then we gave her grain and hay, checked to make sure she was eating and called it a night.

I took a nice stroll around the yard because it’s about a quarter of a mile to make a complete turn. I watched the bats come out and the sun finish going down. El Paso, the resident dog, kept me company. He even brought his toy so that I could play with him for a bit. He’s a border collie and he can sure run. He cuts back and forth as though he’s been trained to herd sheep even though he doesn’t even herd cattle. We both know I’ll never get the toy from him, but he lets me have it sometimes so that I can throw it for him after he runs away.

I went to bed shortly after dark because I’m generally pretty tired after a day around here. I hadn’t even started to fall asleep when I heard a rustling outside. I’d heard it the first night I was here too, but I was too tired to get up to look out the window. It was probably El Paso sleeping under my window. Except whatever it was wasn’t sleeping. There’s no grass or anything but sand under the window. Why would anything dig there? No food to be had.

I finally got up and peered into the darkness. It had a tail. A fluffy tail. El Paso has a fluffy tail so it was probably El Paso, but he didn’t come over to the window to say hello. His nose and face fit right at the bottom of the window. He has tried poking his nose through the screen before. When I say it’s dark here, I mean, it’s *really* dark here. Lots of stars, no street lights. Way off in the distance you can see the lights of one or two cars if they come down the mountain. The moon wasn’t helping much so I went back to bed.

I heard El Paso bark. He wasn’t anywhere near my window. Hmm.

Fifteen minutes later, the wonderful smell of skunk wafted in my window. Well, the mystery was solved. It was my lucky night. That skunk could have heard me at the window and sprayed me right in the face. Of course, now, instead of sleeping with the window open, it made more sense to shut it. See, fresh country air, is always “fresh” but some fresh smells are best left unsmelled.

In the morning, we found the skunk. El Paso had dispatched the invader. He even managed it without getting sprayed. Of course, he left it right there on the sandy track for some poor human to dispose of it. He’s a good dog, but he isn’t willing to drop the thing in the trash or cart it off into the desert where we won’t have to live with the original smell or the decaying smell.

What’s on the agenda for today? The wool carpet in the living room needs shampooing. Dad took care of the cow, Mom picked the tomatoes from the garden, so I got the rug.

Posted: September 17, 2017
Tags:,

Bull-oney

I was just finishing up watering the cow this morning when Dad drove up. “Want to come and check the water at the Noonday with me? I need to see if the bull is there.”

“Sure.” I had my shit kicker boots on because to water the cow you have to enter the pen. I did have my nicer sweat pants on because I was only planning on watering the cow and the garden. I hadn’t had breakfast either.

Off we went. The bull was not at the tanks. Why would it be so helpful? That meant we counted cows and headed over to the other side of the mountain pass to check the other side. There are really two sets of mountains here (this is the nearby range, not the far ranch). The bull wasn’t at the water tank on the other side of the mountains, either. This side is fairly steep, but don’t despair. What follows are Dad’s comments as we searched.

“I made a half-ass road to get up this hill.”

IS THERE ANY OTHER KIND?

“I’m not sure if the road goes to the right or left of this tree.”

DOES IT MATTER??? If you can’t see it, what is the point???

“I’m going to build out this road on the end to go all the way down to the arroyo. I won’t be able to drive back up it, but I can get the truck down it.”

That should give you an idea of just how steep some of these hills are. One way–because sliding down is always easier if you can see what you’re going to hit.

Up on the next ridge:

“I’ll drive as close to the edge as possible so you can see down into the canyon better.”

Gosh, Dad. Favors like that simply aren’t necessary. I’ll just walk.

“I don’t know where that bull is. I’ve never gone over the top of this hill with the truck. I wonder if we can make it. It looks clear.”

Not that we could see OVER the top. Noooo, that doesn’t happen until we actually top it and the truck points DOWN. I thought it didn’t go too badly, though. Not until we had to go back UP the downside. Going down the truck didn’t slip. Going up was all about grinding rocks and slipping sideways. Even Dad said, ‘Shit” twice. That was followed by:

“I used to enjoy riding up here in the truck. Now that I’m old I feel every bump and every rock.”

That’s not because you’re old, Dad. I can feel them too because there is nothing but bumps, rocks and banging into the door and window as you try to hold on.

“Oh Shit,” Dad said again. “I just went over fresh cow shit with the back wheel. Now the bumper and tire is going to be full of cow shit. I’m going to have to wash the truck.”

Whatever, Dad.

We did not find the bull. So we’ll have to go back out again when it cools off. Cows and bulls sit under trees in the midday heat, which makes them impossible to see. They are merely dark shadows in the shadows off in the distance. Sometimes you get lucky and they are along the dry riverbeds where we take the truck, but it’s not worth driving out there much past 11. We looked for over two hours. We counted cows three times because we overcounted at one spot and had to go back to verify the actual number at the first tank after double checking the ones in the sandy riverbed.

When we got home, since I’d already showered first thing in the morning (fool) and then hiked about looking for a bull, I gave El Paso his bath. Then I took another shower. If we go out again tonight, I’ll be taking a third. It’s not that I have to be pristine all the time, but I was hot, sticky and smelled like cows and dog. It’s also impossible to get a comb through your hair after driving around for two hours looking for a sneaky bull.

Posted: September 13, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, , ,

Down the Rabbit Hole

So, I’m visiting the parents on the ranch again. Dad and I went to look for cows on the far ranch. You know the place. Fifty miles past the middle of nowhere, no good roads. Dad decided I needed to learn to drive out there (again. You will recall the last time he decided this, he let me drive for about five minutes before declaring I was trying to kill him.) It rained recently, so many of the main dirt “roads” were full of ditches where the water had carved out a rocky path. Just remember, ladies, when you’re asking for equality, it isn’t always a boardroom job. No, we have to be equal when it comes to cows and roads too.

I was doing pretty well, bouncing us along about five miles an hour or so. I switched into high-gear 4 wheel drive when we reached the ranch part. I know the general route and know where the gates are. Hint: If you are on gate duty, the way to tell which way the gate opens is to note where the truck stops. If the truck stops with enough room to open towards the truck, it’s going to open that way. If the truck goes all the way up to the gate, it opens the other direction. There is no other obvious way to tell. If I am driving said truck, I just GUESS.) Dad didn’t complain much about the extra walks to the gates and on the bright side, I didn’t run over Dad or a gate!

When we came to the spot where the earth tank had run across the road, I asked about putting the truck into low-gear 4 wheel drive. “You don’t need it,” Dad said. “But I don’t know why you’re in drive instead of 1st gear. You drive like the neighbor. I think it’s easier in first gear.”

Well, if he’d MENTIONED that, I guess I’d have been in first gear. FINE.

We made it through the running mud puddle. I was pretty pleased.

On the other side, up an incline, we found a set of cows. “STOP!” Dad yelled.

“GAH!” No, we weren’t under attack, but apparently he had determined we were as close as we’d get before they ran off so he wanted to stop to note the ear tag numbers. It hardly seemed like an EMERGENCY stop order to me. We were only piddling along anyway. SHEESH.

We counted cows. Then the cows wandered into the road in front of us. Mind you, some of these cows stand taller than the front hood. Sometimes they stop. In the dirt road track. See, I don’t appreciate this because I like a tiny bit of momentum for the hills. “Just push them with the truck,” was Dad’s advice.

I honked the horn. The cow didn’t like that. She skittered forward three or four steps before glancing back and…stopping. I moved forward and honked. This time she decided to stand her ground and invite her calf to hang out as well. OH FOR THE LOVE OF. I tapped her with the truck grill. So far as I know, the only purpose of a truck grill is to tap cattle to get them moving. But I see a lot of these truck grills in Austin. I know all those trucks don’t have to worry about cows. Yet they all have grills. Why???

Anyway, Cow 19 decided she’d move. She took her calf along with her.

“Stay close, or she’ll stop again,” Dad advised.

BOTHER.

That worked until we came to the bull. The bull was facing us and is larger than the cow. Less pleasant looking too. Big black face. Giant face, in fact. “Get out of the way,” Dad called out the window.

The bull looked at him and gave this kind of nod and a snort and moved aside.

We all know that if I had politely asked that bull to move, he’d still be there blocking the road into next week. Dad is the cow whisperer in this family and I can pretty much guarantee that bull would have just stood there looking at me for a week, maybe two.

This sort of searching for cows and jotting down their tag numbers continued until we arrived at the water tank an hour or so later. There, we checked the water levels and took a short break before Dad said, “You better let me drive. It gets rough from here.”

WHAT??? And those roads were what? Freeways???

If it had been anyone other than Dad, I’d have rolled my eyes and made a smart remark. I also wouldn’t have believed whoever came up with such a ridiculous sounding lie. I kept my mouth shut and got in the passenger side.

The first part wasn’t too bad if you don’t count the spinning wheels, the rocks sliding out from under the wheels and the fact that the road by the river had grass so long, we couldn’t see the actual road. When we had to cross the running creek, boulders had rolled down and there were potholes the size of the tires.

“I’m not sure I’m on the road anymore,” Dad said. “This isn’t in very good shape.”

“I guess it’s the road now,” I said.

“Yeah,” he agreed happily. “If we aren’t stuck, it’s a road.”

That pretty much sums up Dad’s definition of “road.”

We went by the cabin, still looking for more cows. There were none to be found. Past the cabin, there is a fork in the road. You can take the low road or the high road.

“With the rain, I wonder if we can make it up the high road,” Dad said. “We should be okay, but I guess we’ll slide back down if not.”

Ah, words of reassurance. Dad is such a comfort.

We started up the first rock, some sort of gate into the road from hell. The truck was working pretty hard at this road, but we weren’t moving very often. It got steeper and rockier. “I guess I should have let you drive this part so you’d learn.”

“I know how to drive up this road,” I replied through clenched teeth. “You take the low road.”

He snorted at my lack of enthusiasm.

The first time the rocks went out from under the wheels, we didn’t actually slide back. We just pedaled in place and at least one of us prayed. The rocks rolled under the wheels as if we were on some kind of churning balls. They moved, we didn’t. The tires were grinding, but they held.

The second time it happened, the truck slid sideways and then refused to continue climbing. Dad said, “You let it roll back a tiny bit until the tires grip and then you go again.” He demonstrated by easing up on the gas, letting the truck roll backwards as he worked the brakes with the other foot. It would have been more impressive if I’d heard the rest of the instructions, but I was praying too hard to actually catch whatever it was he was yelling against the sound of sliding rocks, grinding tires and revving engine.

Dad kept up this type of survival driving the rest of the way up the cliff. He had the GALL to start WHISTLING. There I was in the middle of the fourth Hail Mary and he seemed to think this was some kind of fun! Whatever, Dad.

We weren’t having much luck finding the cows. We went over a hill, across a valley, back around and to a lower road. I think it’s the other end of the low road that we should have taken instead of the high cliff road, but I’m not positive. “I guess we should take that and see if we can find the rest of the cows,” he said. “We need to brand the last four tomorrow.”

So we started on the low road, only then there was another fork in the road. Yes, of COURSE he took the high road! HMPH.

It wasn’t actually bad though, not compared to the other one. Not until he asked, ‘Is that a road there?”

“No,” I responded without bothering to look. My road philosophy differs from his. Mine is: “If you can’t see it, it isn’t a road.”

“Oh, you’re right. Here it is.”

No, it wasn’t. We just veered off into a bunch of brush that didn’t have an actual tree in the way.

“I haven’t driven down here in a long time so the road is hard to find.”

He meandered along a completely unmarked tiny rabbit trail. I just kept my mouth shut and looked for cows.

“I don’t think they’ll be down here. I don’t see any fresh tracks or cow dung.”

Well, so what? I hadn’t seen a road and that hadn’t stopped him either!!!

We went round and about and then came to a spot that seemed impassable. “I’ll turn around here. Did you see any fresh tracks on that ant mound back there?”

“No, there were no fresh tracks.” This was a true statement. I’d seen the ant mound because it was the only sandy area visible. The rest was covered in grass, weeds, trees and cacti.

“We should probably drive closer and check.”

Well, since roads weren’t a requirement, why not????

He backed up, made a circle, did this and that and we were on our way. We got over to the ant mound by driving over two small oak trees, and taking a tree branch on both windows/mirrors at the same time. Note: While watching for cows, you must also watch for trees that jab inside the window.

There were no fresh tracks and no cows and no cow dung. He drove a bit past the mound so that we could get better visibility up the side of a nearby hill, but no luck. He turned around.

We drove out a few yards and found the ant mound. Dad stopped. “Where did the road go? Is that it?”

“No.” There was a huge rock just past where he was pointing. We hadn’t gone over anything that large because we wouldn’t have made it.

He drove some more.

“Is that it?” I pointed to a small tree. “We went over a small tree or two.”

“I don’t remember that tree.” He drove up to the tree. “Yeah, this could be it, but I don’t remember that tree. Maybe this is it.”

Another few yards and suddenly a huge tree loomed. Rocks jutted out like some kind of wild graveyard. “I don’t think this is it,” Dad said.

“Look there,” I yelled. “It’s a rabbit.”

Dad gave me a surprised glance. “That’s just a jackrabbit. So what?”

“So you took a rabbit track down here. Ask the rabbit. It knows this track.”

Dad snorted. The rabbit hopped away. Dad drove to the right until we hit more trees. “This isn’t it either. There are no truck tracks from us coming down this way. Now we’re lost.”

Technically, we weren’t lost. We knew right where we were. We even knew where we wanted to be: The top of the hill. What we didn’t know was HOW TO GET THERE.

He got the truck turned around and we headed in the general direction of the ant mound. The rabbit appeared again. “Follow that rabbit,” I said. “I’m telling you this is a rabbit track!”

Since the rabbit was in front of us, Dad followed the rabbit. When it veered left into the brush, Dad stopped and looked that way. “Yup, this is right. I see the tracks.” He meant the truck tracks, not the rabbit ones, but really, what’s the difference???

Saved by a rabbit. Unbelievable.

The adventure continued as we hunted cows. At one point, Dad had to back up a very long way because we went down a road that he decided wasn’t going to lead to cows and there was no place to turn around. This didn’t even faze him. CRAP. I can barely drive half those “roads” while looking straight ahead. He backed that truck up like he was still going forward. I’d have ended down the side of the hill even on the best of the “roads.”

Yeah. I learned something all right. FOLLOW THE RABBIT!!!

Posted: September 8, 2017
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, , ,

Grab Bars

Okay, we’re all getting older here, so let’s talk about a few handy conveniences. When I was home last, I noticed that Mom needed a grab bar or two near the toilets, sink and definitely the shower. When I mentioned my idea to Dad, he informed me that he hasn’t washed his one foot in a year because he can’t balance on that side!!! Now, y’all know that Dad is pretty handy with tools, even at 79. Why he hasn’t put in grab bars is beyond me, but believe me, we are shopping for just the right thing now!

One of the first products I bought them are these handy little suction cup bars for the shower. Because they have suction cups, they are not permanent and you have to be very careful to ensure they are attached to the wall before using them. I bought these so that Mom and Dad can move the bars around and test where they want a permanent bar installed (BEFORE I start drilling holes…)

Note they have little lights to indicate when the suction is working. Mom said that she has to re-suction them before each shower, but they are very easy to use. She has almost decided where she wants a permanent bar (and she may end up wanting two bars.) She is using them and appreciates having them there. Dad has not chimed in just yet, but that is the way of men. They are very stoic stubborn!

There are a plethora of choices when it comes to grab bars. I love the look of this one and it has a shelf! I’m afraid Mom might fill it so full of stuff she’d never be able to use it as a grab bar, but it’s a handy idea. I’m actually thinking of getting this one for the sink area because she wouldn’t use a grab bar very often, but she would definitely use the shelf!

I haven’t found any grab bars that have 16 inch mounts for the toilet paper (Sixteen inches is the distance between studs, and I want any grab bar firmly attached to studs). The toilet holders are cute and functional, but only one side would be in a stud and I don’t think that will work very well. So the jury is still out on that bar.

If you’re remodeling–think about adding grab bars. If you’re building a house, definitely have them put in. They come in many colors and sizes to match any decor. They will come in handy, probably sooner rather than later!

Cowboys Don’t Sunburn

You know those nice cover shots on romance books where the cowboy isn’t wearing a shirt? Or those shots where he’s standing in his boots on the porch with nice clean jeans? Fiction. TOTALLY FICTION.

If you ever wondered how cowboys avoided sunburn back before sunblock I can tell you the answer. When you’re out ranching, whether by truck or horse, the first thing you encounter is gates. You have to dismount or get out of the truck to open and close gates. If you’re on a horse, the horse tends to stir up dust. If you’re in the truck, the truck wheels let loose a powder dusting as it eases through the gate. The person opening the gate gets a fine covering of delicate sand across every spare inch of her person. Nature’s sunscreen.

When you throw hay out the back of a truck so that you can entice the cattle to the corral, you get large bits of hay, dust and dirt showered across your person. More natural sunscreen. By the time you leave the ranch for home, you are actually wearing the equivalent of sunblock 152. Trust me, I calculated it on the last trip. There was enough dirt on my person to start a garden. And at the end of the day, if I’d had the energy to prop my boots on the porch railing for a picture, I guarantee you neither the boots nor my jeans were pristine. Those cowboys on the covers are TOTALLY fiction.

Posted: March 1, 2014
Filed in New Mexico, Walks in Life
Tags:, , ,

Always the Animals

I know the real reason y’all visit me here. It’s not the books (mine or anyone else’s.) It sure as heck better not be the sewing tips or y’all are gonna end up naked or in rags. You like the garden, but the truth is, most of you aren’t about to dig down into that soil and see if it will grow anything. It’s way easier to laugh at me as I try. Now and then, you’re tempted by a recipe or two. But in the end, the star of the show is really…Junior. Scamper. Lynx. And now, we have Oreo and Indian Hat.

Welcome to the show. I hope you stay awhile.

I love grain!

Did someone say “apples?”

You are not getting any of my hay!

I’m not waiting for you. You’re slow.

Posted: October 24, 2012
Filed in Walks in Life
Tags:, ,

Friday Night – Nothin’ Like a Cold One

Friday evening was beautiful; a balmy 70 or so. We decided to take a walk. We sometimes do short walks in the evening, just a mile around the block. There was a nice breeze, kids out practicing baseball with their parents coaching…yanno, far be it for me to tell people how to play baseball, but it seems to me that if you’re going to have kid 2 throwing the ball back to Mom in her chair that Mom might not want to sit Right In Front of the SUV. SUV has nice big windows. Wonder how long they are going to stay intact with the kid throwing a ball right at them for all he’s worth? And that house that is in front of the kid swinging that bat…well, it’s mine. And I don’t want my garage door dented. I don’t want the side window to have to be replaced either. Just so you know.

Around the block we went, minding our own business. On the second corner turn, we noticed a lady coming towards us on a bicycle. She turned with us, wobbling along. Her lack of balance was probably because she was tilting her head against her shoulder so that she could talk into her cell phone–while riding a bicycle and trying to hold onto a twelve pack of beer. Yeah. The cars trying to get around her didn’t seem to appreciate it either.

We kept walking, she kept wobbling along. Until she dropped the beer. Then the bike sort of went sideways and she disappeared behind a parked car as she hopped/fell off. Hope that beer was in cans. She was in front of us now, but by the time she managed to pick the beer up again, we had almost caught up to her. She didn’t try to get back on the bike, but she was having a hard time carrying that beer and holding the bike up while she walked. We went around her.

Little while later, she crossed to the other side of the street. She appeared to be trying to slide the top part of the cardboard beer box over the handle of the bicycle. Uhm.

Husband said, “I don’t think I’d try to transport my beer that way. Bet it doesn’t stay on that handlebar for long.”

Yeah.

We kept walking. Miss Beer Buyer got back on the bike and started peddling away. We stopped for the mail. By the time we resumed our walk, Miss Beer had stopped too. Seems the beer was back on the sidewalk and this time the cans had rolled away. She was holding the bike with one hand and reaching for the beer with the other. One at a time she put them back in the cardboard box. It will surprise you to know that the top of the beer box appeared torn open.

“Be nice to get that home and pop the top on the beer she went to so much trouble to buy,” I said.

“Yeah,” Husband said, “After she waits two hours for it to settle so she can open it without it spraying all over the place.”

Rocket science. I tell you, it’s rocket science.

Posted: May 13, 2012
Filed in Walks in Life
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Another Walk

So we took our usual walk this morning. It was threatening rain so we were hurrying along. So was the teenager coming towards us on his bicycle. He was coming up the slight incline in that half-standing-to-pedal-better mode. All of a sudden he slammed on the brakes and stopped. He had to stop quickly because his pants were falling off. Yup, ye old fashion of the day had left his ass not only hanging out, but also put him in imminent danger of falling off his bike because it’s hard to pedal with your pants around your knees. There’s a *reason* belts and suspenders were invented. Couldn’t you at least wear suspenders and tighten them for the ride home? How often do you have to stop on your way? Does it take you an extra half hour of stop time just to adjust your clothing??? And I thought high heels were stupid.

As he took off again, I looked back. Yup, I was mooned by his underwear. I thought he was pedaling fast to make it home before the rain, but as fast as his pants were falling off, I’m guessing he has to get in as many rotations as he can before stopping to pull them up again.

Come on, people! This is not rocket science. PUT YOUR PANTS ON. There’s a “waist” for a reason. The general idea, in case you’ve missed it, is that you pull the pants OVER your butt so that you can KEEP THEM ON and still walk or ride your bike. And we do not want to see your underwear, no we do not. They are called UNDERwear for a reason. Yes, really–they are to be worn UNDER your other clothes! WHO KNEW????

Husband’s take on the situation: “That does not inspire confidence in our leaders of tomorrow. Not even smart enough to figure out how to keep his pants on!” He paused. “Then again, that seems to be a large problem with our leaders of today too, doesn’t it?”

Yeeeah. You could say that. And now you know where it all starts. Not even smart enough to pull up your pants to ride your bike home in the rain.

Posted: May 10, 2012
Filed in Walks in Life
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Walking in the Woods

As you know, we walk every day for exercise. Sometimes we walk around the neighborhood, sometimes we walk through the woods. The last time we walked through the woods, someone added a gate in the middle of nowhere. With a bicycle lock.

It’s just sitting there by the side of the trail. I thought maybe it was a gate to Narnia, but no such luck. You can go on any side of the gate and you’re still in the Texas woods. Go figure. So…how did this gate come to be here? It’s about a half mile walk from the nearest roadway (at least. The trail is so convoluted that unless you cut through heavy brush, it can easily be a mile. If you are a crow and can fly this thing in on your back, it’s probably shorter than a mile.)

The gate doesn’t appear all that heavy, but it’s not like you could twirl it around your hand while walking either. And…why put a bike lock on it? If you bring your bike out here and you lock it to the gate, well. The gate was carried here, so it isn’t likely to be much protection for either the gate or the bike.

The gate marks…nothing. It’s not the halfway point. It’s deep in the woods so it doesn’t mark a boundary to the woods. There’s a stream bed nearby, but not so near that it has anything to do with a gate. One wonders. It’s hard to believe someone took a stroll with the gate and just *forgot* it here.

And if it disappears, you know I will wonder who took it. The original visitors? A dragon? A mouse? The possibilities are quite endless. And all equally mysterious.

I do not know why that gate is there. It is a mystery.

Posted: April 21, 2012
Filed in Walks in Life
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